Happy Halloween! In the spirit of the season, today we're going to talk about how Big Tobacco is still haunting the climate debate.
It all started a long, long time ago, on a dark and stormy night, in a smoke-filled room full of Mammon's disciples, as they prayed to their dark lord to ask how to keep making money despite the fact that their products killed its consumers and their children who hadn't yet learned to crawl.
To do so, they summoned a trickster demon, a malevolent spirit of death and deception once known as denial, now more popularly called disinformation. Over the decade, they sacrificed millions of their customers to the demon, spending lavishly on front groups and ad campaigns to tell the public their products, fossil fuels and tobacco, are totally safe and a healthy and nutritious part of a complete breakfast.
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the disinformation demon ran rampant through the media, infecting the public with its lies and inducing them to support politicians who would allow these companies to continue their propaganda in the service of polluting profits.
Around the turn of the century, some believed the demon was slayed, dragged into the light and destroyed by the truth. While that's true to an extent, the reality is the demon just went underground.
But it's still around if you know where to look. For example, at TownHall recently, Martin Cullip, an International Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance's Consumer Center, wrote an op-ed about the World Health Organization's call for a treaty to end fossil fuel use, based at least in part on the tobacco treaty that drove a stake into the heart of Big Tobacco.
He wants you to think it's a bad idea, that the treaty is a failure (because the industry shifted its focus to the developing world) and the experts at the World Health Organization are wrong and he's right. But who is he? Cullip is a regular in the pro-smoking circuit, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is, of course, a Koch-affiliated front group.
So as much as deniers hate the comparison to Big Tobacco, it remains as true now as it was decades ago: The reason climate disinformation so closely resembles tobacco propaganda is that the two are twin creations of the tobacco and fossil fuel industries, a demon of their summoning that, to this day, haunts the shadowy corners of the Internet doing the bidding of its unholy masters.